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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Intermittent Fasting arrow Is Fasting During Period a Healthy Choice? 5 Tips to Succeed

Is Fasting During Period a Healthy Choice? 5 Tips to Succeed

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: October 15, 2023
8 min read 744 Views 0 Comments
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Intermittent fasting offers several perks for health and well-being, but should you avoid it when your menstrual period rolls around?

fasting during period

For most women, period is the time of the month when you feel tired, sluggish, and moody. You might feel hungrier than usual, with more intense cravings for unhealthy foods.

Fasting might seem like the last thing you want to do right now. It means no chocolate, potato chips, or sweets as you abstain from eating for a given period.

However, what if you’re determined to maintain your fasting journey despite being on your period? Better yet, what if fasting could support your menstrual cycle?

Find out the answer to the popular question of whether it’s healthy, safe, and worthwhile to fast during period. 

Is Fasting During Period Safe?

Fasting is considered safe at any point during the menstrual cycle; therefore, there’s no reason to think it unsafe to fast while on your period. It is possible, but it’s all about listening to your body. Some women prefer to skip fasting days at this time if they’re feeling more tired than usual.

On the other hand, fasting may help you counter period-related problems, such as bloating and bathroom woes. According to one study, intermittent fasting may improve menstruation and fertility in women with hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

There are a few reasons why a woman might practice fasting when menstruating. It might be:

  • To alleviate PMS symptoms
  • To improve digestive issues
  • To continue fasting for weight loss
  • To adopt a new diet plan

You should be mindful of a few things if you start fasting during your period. It can be problematic, so you must prepare yourself before jumping in. This means adjusting your diet slowly, creating a good schedule, and planning your post-fast meals. 

Can Intermittent Fasting Affect the Menstrual Cycle?

Intermittent fasting can impact menstrual cycles, primarily due to calorie restriction from giving up food at certain hours of the day. It can interfere with the body’s regulation of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are responsible for menstruation.

This is especially true with extended fasting, where you go long hours without food. For instance, a study examining the influence of Ramadan fasting on the menstrual cycle discovered an increase in menstrual abnormalities in those fasting for more than fifteen days.

That said, intermittent fasting doesn’t rely on calorie restriction. It narrows your eating window, but you can still consume the same number of calories daily, only in a shorter time. Most types of intermittent fasting don’t require such long fasts.

The female body is complex. It’s also sensitive, and the stress of intermittent fasting on your body may upset your hormonal cycles. However, if you find an intermittent fasting program that works for you and you do it right, you may benefit during menstruation.

5 Benefits of Fasting While on Period

Intermittent fasting has known benefits for various aspects of human health, and as it turns out, it may also have advantages for menstrual symptoms. Before giving up the fast as your period starts, consider the perks you might encounter with a fast in place.

#1 Improved digestion

Fasting can be an effective gut health hack for some women. It can improve digestion by allowing the digestive system to digest your last meal fully. When you are no longer eating, the system has time to restore and remove all the toxins that may have built up in the gut.

In addition, intermittent fasting can positively influence the gut microbiota, which may aid a smoother digestive process.

#2 Reduced bloating

Most women experience the discomfort of period bloating, which causes a feeling of fullness and pressure in the abdomen. Intermittent fasting might help to alleviate the issue, as it can improve gastrointestinal motility and, as mentioned above, support a healthy gut microbiota.

#3 Reduced PMS

PMS describes the symptoms that occur in the weeks before a period. These typically include bloating, abdominal pain, headaches, and mood swings. Science reveals fasting has several benefits for women’s health that might help to counteract common PMS symptoms, including reducing bloating and promoting mental well-being.

#4 Lower risk of diseases

Fasting plays a role in reducing the risk of certain human diseases. It’s mainly associated with lowering cardiovascular disease risk as it boosts metabolic health. It improves insulin sensitivity, regulates blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, and helps lose weight.

These effects can make intermittent fasting beneficial for various health reasons, including for people with diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

#5 Improved mental focus

It can be tough to concentrate when dealing with a distressing period, but fasting can help you maintain focus and boost mental clarity since it improves cognition. It can even stall cognitive decline during aging and may help protect against neurodegenerative disorders.

Potential Risks of Fasting During Period

Fasting is healthy, but it isn’t for everyone, and it can cause negative effects when on your period. When done correctly, your fast and period can coincide without any problems. But if it puts too much stress on your body, you may experience negative consequences.

It can mess up your hormones, leading to menstrual dysfunction, irritability, and mood swings. The blood loss coupled with low blood sugar from lack of food may also encourage mood changes, low energy levels, and tiredness.

Some people should avoid fasting altogether, regardless of menstruation. This includes:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • People with an eating disorder or a history of eating disorders
  • Those taking insulin to control type 1 diabetes
  • Those taking certain prescription medications
  • Children and teenagers under 18

Handy Tips for Fasting on Your Period

When dealing with menstrual pain, you might be ready to try just about anything to make the time of the month easier. And if you can continue with your intermittent fasting journey to acquire some benefits, you might want to try it.

Here are five tips to make the fasting period and your period as smooth as possible.

#1 Adjust your diet gradually

Instead of jumping head-first into a strict fast and delivering a major shock to the system, you should ease yourself into it. It’s better to start slow, as this allows your body to adapt and prepare for long hours without food.

First things first, begin to reduce the amount of food you consume gradually. You can do this by reducing your serving sizes before cutting down on the number of meals you eat daily. You can also slowly remove the items you want to cut back on during your period, like refined sugars and starchy foods that don’t benefit your body.

You can then start prioritizing healthy meals, consisting of food groups you’ll need when you break your fast.

#2 Prepare your body well

Slowly reducing your food intake is one way to prepare your body for an easier transition to the fasting period. To prepare yourself further, create a fasting schedule that you can stick to. 

This involves considering the many factors that might disrupt your journey, such as work, socializing, and training. You need a program that fits well into your lifestyle.

If it’s your first time fasting, starting with intermittent rather than total fasting is best. That way, you can adapt to shorter windows without food before gradually increasing the fasting window. The 12:12 and 16:8 methods are popular among beginners.

Fasting supplements ensure you have all the necessary nutrients. They equip you for the journey by encouraging fat-burning, boosting energy, and mitigating nutritional deficiencies.

#3 Drink a lot of water

It’s critical to drink water while fasting to keep yourself hydrated and your body’s cells functioning properly. Remember, you’re not even getting your usual 20% of water from food intake, so you must consume plenty of fluids to eliminate the dangerous risk of dehydration.

Water can also keep hunger pangs at bay. Interestingly, you might think you’re hungry when you’re just thirsty. It can also minimize bloating, which is great if you’re experiencing uncomfortable period bloating.

#4 Opt for food rich in protein, fat, and fiber

When the eating window arrives, you’ll need to eat the right foods to nourish your body during your period. PMS symptoms can trigger cravings for carbs and sugar, but you can counter these cravings by breaking a fast with foods containing healthy fats, fiber, and protein.

For example, your first meal could be a nourishing bowl of bone broth, as it’s full of amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. Green smoothies make a perfect breakfast choice as they’re easy on the stomach, filling, and you can fill them with ingredients that cover all bases.

For instance, you could add avocado for fat, Greek yogurt for protein, and seeds for fiber.

Knowing how to break a fast will also ensure you don’t overwhelm your digestive system. Regardless of where you are in the menstrual cycle, you need to consume gentle foods only when you resume eating. It gives your system a chance to restart without major disruption.

#5 Break the fast early if necessary

If you know that your PMS cravings will be too much to fight, it can be worth breaking your fast early. Often, women find that cravings and excess hunger strike in the days before or in the early days when the period starts. You could reschedule your fasting window so it doesn’t clash.

FAQs

Does fasting help with period cramps?

Fasting has the potential to help with period cramps as it helps to balance hormones. On the other hand, excessive hunger associated with fasting could make menstrual pain worse.

Should you stop Ramadan during your period?

During Ramadan, women are exempt from fasting during menstruation. They must end the fast and make up for it later. Exemptions also apply to pregnant and breastfeeding women, elderly individuals, travelers, and those who are sick.

What’s the best time to fast during a menstrual cycle?

You can fast at any time during your menstrual cycle, but many people recommend avoiding fasting the week before your period starts since the body is more vulnerable at this time.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Intermittent fasting for women has several health benefits, including weight loss, preventing weight gain, stronger cardiovascular health, diabetes management, enhanced brain power, and more. It also has the potential to relieve bloating, improve digestion, and benefit sleep.

You can’t consume solid food, but you can be sure to drink plenty of water, herbal teas, and other fast-friendly drinks throughout the fasting window to stay hydrated and give you energy. When it’s time to eat, prioritize nutritious whole foods to refuel your system.

Conclusion

As a woman, your body experiences hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. You might feel more sensitive than usual, so it’s important to be cautious when fasting. The method has the ability to improve period symptoms in some women, but it may intensify them in others.

The answer is to listen to your body and assess how it responds to fasting. You can then see if it’s putting too much stress on your system or exasperating the negative effects of menstruation. Talk to your doctor for more guidance on navigating your period during fasting.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: October 15, 2023
8 min read 744 Views 0 Comments
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